Why Mental Health Organizations Should Endorse the Movement for Black Lives


Every single mental health reform in the US today owes its existence in part to the struggle of Black people in this country.

This is not an exaggeration or speculation. It is a true account of the history of mental health reform – where those reforms came from and how they were put into practice. While we certainly still have far to go, we came as far as we have today only with the movement for Black liberation paving the way. And we will never move forward to real and meaningful mental health reform without joining with the movement for Black liberation.

Remember our history: the psychiatric survivor movement, which then became the consumer movement and recovery movement and now the peer movement, was born in a time of civil rights and Black organizing in the US. It was Black people in the civil rights movement who inspired all of us to make social change real, and psychiatric patients and progressive professionals took up that inspiration. Black protest fueled the anti-war movement and led to the rise of the Women’s Movement, and the pioneering work of women’s consciousness raising groups broke the silence on psychiatric abuse, trauma, and violence against women. Influential feminist books about madness and psychiatry by Barbara Ehrenreich, Phyllis Chesler, and others brought mental health to the center of discussions about sexism and the treatment of women, who comprise the majority of mental patients. Black protest paved the way for the courage of the Stonewall Uprising and ignited the Gay Liberation movement, directly fighting psychiatry’s homophobic Diagnostic and Statistical Manual and opening a new understanding of human freedom and diversity.

In a very real way, Black protest made psychiatric protest possible, which then led to the modern consumer/peer/recovery movement. You can’t get around that history: it wasn’t politicians, doctors, or pharmaceutical companies that said “Hey let’s get some human rights in here, let’s get a recovery perspective, let’s get some peer alternatives, let’s rethink some of these drug risks, let’s question restraints and isolation cells, let’s get people out of confinement in the hospitals.” It took a protest movement. Funding for offices of consumer affairs in every state, the Alternatives Conference, technical assistance centers, community mental health and Patients Rights Advocacy programs, and now Peer Specialists and Peer run services — none of it would exist without psychiatric patient protests, and those protests were directly inspired by the civil rights movement. What mental health protections and rights we do have and take for granted today — living in the community, hearings before judges, informed consent, an end to lobotomy, confidentiality, disclosure of drug risks — none of it existed before the protest era of the 60s and 70s, and none of that protest would have been possible without the organizing and activism of Black people. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Ella Baker, and so many other leaders inspired all of us to dream of a world where our human rights are respected. We are part of that movement and our destiny is intertwined with it. We still have that dream.

And it’s more than just history. It’s also the future. Like many people with a psychiatric diagnosis and experiences with extreme states, I live in fear that my own emotional distress might one day spiral out of control and then escalate to violence when police show up on the scene. The Black Lives Matter movement is pushing police reform that will protect all of us. Black activism is promoting voting rights, prison and criminal justice change, poverty and social program priorities in ways that directly contribute to a future mental health system that truly meets peoples needs. Does anyone really think the power of the American Psychiatric Association, the pharmaceutical industry, the insurance industry or the hospital industry and their ilk is just going to suddenly get enlightened and turn towards patients rights and mental health reforms without a push? Where will that push come from?

History shows us that it takes a broader social change movement. The power of the pharma and medical industry lobbies is too great: only with comprehensive political challenge can we ever hope to make mental health reform happen. Mental health reform only took place in the US in the context of a broader social change movement setting the context. And meaningful reform will only happen in the future if that broader social change is happening. It’s a fantasy to just hope for a change of heart in the powers that be: it takes a movement. I wrote previously about the corrupting power of money blocking meaningful reform; the Movement for Black Lives is a leading part in a deeper challenge, a challenge that can make real social change possible. For the mental health system, for social problems, for all of us.

Does this sound like a distraction? Are we getting off topic, moving beyond the focus of our work? You will hear people say “We can’t take a stand on Black liberation because that is not our job. We are mental health and peer advocates, we are not here to support Black liberation.” Maybe we should look at something. Maybe we should look at the paycheck of the people who say we can’t take a stand. Does their paycheck comes with strings attached? If they are telling us we can’t endorse the Movement for Black Lives, are they really saying “I’m worried about my status and income, protecting my status and money is more important to me than actually making real change happen?” Isn’t it time for us to start putting people’s lives first? Don’t Black lives matter? Shouldn’t people be taking risks that might not go along with their job descriptions and might make their nervous about our funding, but are still the right thing to do? Isn’t that how change happens? We say we are trying to improve the mental health of society. Are we really? Are we really serious about mental health reform? Or is it just something we talk about without ever getting accomplished, which is fine with us as long as we keep getting paid?

When I travel around the US and meet with consumers/patients as well as family members, social workers, administrators, and professionals, I hear stories about people’s lives. Not their job descriptions, and not even just diagnosis and hospitals. I hear about their entire lives, lives affected by poverty, homelessness, and prisons, families broken up by foster care and trauma, people living in fear of the police, despair about the environment and the future of our children, overwhelming stress from credit card debt, low wages, and lack of healthcare… I hear about how people’s lives in an oppressive society directly affect their mental health. And again and again everyone agrees: the “mental health system” and the “disability system” are in fact ways that society deals with its larger issues of poverty and social problems. So when do we start working on the larger issues?

Let’s endorse the Movement for Black Lives call for comprehensive policy changes that will defend and promote the lives of Black people in the US. Not just because we support our Black community members affected by mental health issues, but because we know that the mental health reforms we seek can literally never succeed without the success of the demands for Black lives. We will never get real mental health change without real social change. Talk to your Boards of Directors, put it on your agenda, post about it, tweet about it, raise it at your meetings. An endorsement and adding your organization’s name to the growing list of people working for real change, will be a clear statement: recovery, the peer movement, and mental health reforms all depend on dealing with real social issues that are so deeply connected.



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  1. You will hear people say “We can’t take a stand on Black liberation because that is not our job. We are mental health and peer advocates, we are not here to support Black liberation.”

    I think this hesitancy to (re)connect our movements also speaks to the overwhelming lack of diverse leadership in the peer recovery movement. Many of us have a lot to do in terms of dismantling our own white privilege and complicity in racist systems. Thank you for helping remind us of our radical roots, and of the work that still needs to be done if we are truly going to be an inclusive movement for human rights.

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      • One begins by admitting, if one is White, that you carry a backpack of power and privilege simply because you were born white. You don’t have to earn it, you don’t have to do anything to get it, it’s just there as part of your heritage when you are born. You stand above others simply because of your color. Looking at this reality and admitting to it is the beginning.

        However, most White people have no comprehension of this, as if they wear blinders. And many get angry when this is pointed out. Once you admit that it’s there then you work to be aware of when you use it, and this is a very subtle thing since it’s always been there at our fingertips to use as we see fit when we see tit. We just use it without even thinking about it. The trick is to see when you use it and then start thinking about what you’re doing. Awareness is the key to everything here.

        I am First Nations, what White people want to call Native Americans. I’ve watched this power and privilege thing happen in my own life since I do not look like an “Indian” and have passed for White since I was a small child. It was easier to pass for White in the state where I was born because First Nations peoples were always at the bottom of the totem pole and were the recipients of much racism. My grandfather created the situation for my family so that we could pass as White so we would benefit from all the things that White people received. People who didn’t know my background treated me like a White person. They would not have given me this treatment if they’d known that I was First Nations. So, I’ve watched the process from an interesting vantage point.

        Becoming aware that you have privilege and power is the beginning of everything. Once the awareness is in place then you can begin to do something about it.

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        • I don’t want to argue with you and I’ve been politely nudged out of this thread so I must leave. Here’s my last thought on the subject: I am white, female, middle-class and certifiably insane. I ALWAYS use the term First Nations. I ALWAYS capitalize Black. I ALWAYS refer to trans people exactly how they tell me to. I do every fucking thing that I can to treat the people around me with dignity and respect. In this regard, I am guilty of NOTHING. Sorry if this offends you.

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        • White privilege exhibited itself in my upbringing in the form of tracked education. The predominantly white area of South Hills were I come from is largely removed from the day to day struggles of the increasingly Black Westside, plagued with the circumstances brought about by white flight. But with 95% of the population being white, and considering that West Virginia consistently ranks at the bottom of socio-economic indicators, class privilege is more the over-riding feature in our state, whose economy has long been dominated by extractive industries. Within the state, the have and have nots are generally an inter-white caste system based on access to education, resources, and networking.

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          • @ Stephen

            Thanks for taking the effort to explain.

            I’m not sure I agree with you. I mean I can’t do this:

            “One begins by admitting, if one is White, that you carry a backpack of power and privilege simply because you were born white. You don’t have to earn it, you don’t have to do anything to get it, it’s just there as part of your heritage when you are born. You stand above others simply because of your color. Looking at this reality and admitting to it is the beginning. ”

            Because the only time that really seems to hold truck in my life, is when I am having deals with racists or white supremacists. And that isn’t often. In the sense of, me being white doesn’t appear to open the doors you imagine it does.

            What closes the doors for me is madness, and, to some extent — no, to a very large extent — my resistance of bullshit and bullshitters. Modern life is so dependent on bullshit and bullshitters that if you refuse the narratives and the pressure to bullshit your way through life too… then you find yourself handicapped.

            If I was more sane I would stop resisting bullshit and lord knows I have tried.

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    • While their is evidence of Blacks Lives Matter being corralled into the partisan culture wars, there is also a spirit of confrontation with the powers that be, that harkens back to the best tradition of the Civil Rights Movement-flushing Bill Clinton out of the pocket over Hillary’s sperpredator comment, is a case in point. Michelle Alexander is perhaps the most eloquent spokesperson drawing the public’s attention to the guilt of the bipartisan coalition that created the mass incarceration complex. Black Lives.Matter and their supporters are connecting the dots on this issue at it relates to the foreclosure crisis and the over all disinvestment in the black community-the hardest hit community by the Great Recession, save for Native Americans.
      However, the slogan Black Lives Matter, has led to a push back in some communities where the Black Lives Matter concerns should resonate. West Virginiaa is 95% white, and generally competes with Mississippi for the lowest socio-economic indicators. Having said that, like the rest of the country, black communities here have been beset with urban renewal, white flight, and an extremely high rate of juvenile incarceration. I don’t know the answer to this, but as the movement, BLM evolves, maybe more people from all ethnicities will be brought in.

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    • Thank you for helping remind us of our radical roots,

      As in the days when there really was a liberation movement, before people such as yourself and your opportunist predecessors decided to appropriate the symbols and language of that movement for personal gain?

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  2. “While the BLM movement and Libertarians have some overlapping positions, Libertarians should not look past the BLM’s disgusting love of socialism disguised as racial justice. The social warriors seek to empower the government and have people become beholden to a centralized power. You could argue that the BLM is attempting to usher in a new era of slavery. Libertarians seek to live in freedom and liberty and should not forget that just because of one group’s popularity. ”

    More http://www.freedomgulch.com/black-lives-matter-and-libertarians/

    I think the good that is coming from Black Lives Matter taking on the American police state far outweighs the negatives at this point. Just watch out with the lefty crap BLM, history has shown the left is real good at tyranny too.

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  3. I think the whole point of Black Lives Matter is that it is an exclusivist movement.

    If you can understand why it is an exclusivist movement you’ll maybe appreciate why it is laughable to watch white opportunists attempting to steal their thunder.

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    • Once again, I agree with RR. We are a movement (I guess) comprising the mad. No doubt, some of us are black. I guess it’s extra awful when you’re black and mad? I don’t know because I’m white. Straight talk, this isn’t helping us. Please reconsider this line of argument.

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  4. Thanks Will
    What is most important is the open secret that African Americans kept a wide wide distance from the state and local mental health systems
    They worked there but families kept folks close
    It was not until the Civil
    Rights movement that the racial composition of the state and local mental health systems became more diverse and not for the better!
    NAMI targeted their culture and so many were lost in the bowels through hospitalization ard or incarceration that now a black person in an altered mental state risks their own life if they are pink slipped
    Police have no training on how to assess and deescslate a situation and in fact their control leanings can make for a very tragic situation
    This needs to be thoroughly looked into and researched
    by someone
    What happened?

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        • I think the suggestion is that under Jim Crow, blacks lived separately from dominate institutions, and thus were under-represented in psych wards until recently. My guess there is some one on this site who can further explain this.

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          • To you and others
            The mental health system until very recently was populated by white folks
            Jim Crow had the lynchings and killings
            I think the powers that be
            have used the systems of mental health and incarceration with meds in lieu of the hanging tree
            My sense was that many black families were truly and many times accurrately aware of the negatives of institutionslism
            My cell is not typing well so excuse the formatting and typos
            Check out news stories of folks in altered mental states killed or threatened by police actions
            There area number of them
            There is an old saw horse abou they took others ect.. then they came for me
            Eventually if nothing is fixed or changed a pink slip could become a possible death warrant or hanging tree for anyone no matter what group you hail from
            I am not an expert just going on what I have heard and seen
            There must be a treasure of info somewhere on this or should be

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          • Correct. Then Nixon and his cronies became extremely fearful of the Black Community and decided that they would institute programs that seemed genuine and honest at first glance but which targeted the Black community in ways that would diminish it. The War on Drugs is the prime example.

            They also started arresting angry young Black men in the 1970’s, labeling them as paranoid schizophrenic, and carted them off to the psych institutions. It scared White America to death when the two young Black men who won gold and silver medals in the Mexico City Olympics raised their fists with black gloves on them when the national anthem was played. It was at this point that young black men were dragged into they psych wards, where they often stayed for years.

            CatNight gives a great explanation below.

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  5. Additionally, libertarianism and the fight against racism (or any kind of abuse, whether that be sexual, physical, mental or whatever) are completely at odds.

    And I’ll do the polite thing and tell you why.

    In libertarianism, in the ideal state of liberty, there is no nation state, there is police, no institution whatsover. In radical libertarianism there is even no family.

    Now on paper and in gaseous vocalisations that can sound quite appealing to many.

    But as I say, libertarianism doesn’t promise to end abuse. All it promises is that abuse may have consequences if someone bigger and stronger or with more guile enters the scene.

    It in no way calls for the end of abuse. Including racist abuse. It just proposes that there may be consequences.

    This is why libertarianism will never go further than the wild west fantasy it truly is.

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  6. A fascinating article… I had to collect all my mental health and insanity to just finish reading it. So, the author (who is infected with his illusion of the white guilt) now proposes that no progress would have been done without the blm movement (which is in itself a mental case of persecution mania and other disorders)? Just one question: What movement (if any) did Dr. Freud use for his analysis? And what about the other physicians in all-white Europe?
    Insanity continues…

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  7. Thanks Will for this much needed article. Your challenge to us all is not only to support the Black Lives Matter movement but also to learn from it. To grow our activism as we participate in and learn from BLM is essential. On Monday we had 150 people at a protest in front of the Boston Globe mourning those we have lost to systemic violence. Many died in restraints. Many were children. And 385 of the nearly 700 people who lost their lives to the mental health/criminal justice system were shot by police.

    Some of us were afraid that these 385 deaths could be too easily dismissed as so-called “suicide by cop” which is exactly how the Boston Globe described it in their Spotlight Series. The fear was that we might play into the Globe’s attempt to paint us as violent and dangerous. But I personally took courage through my participation in Black Lives Matter movement (more specifically Mass Action Against Police Brutality https://m.facebook.com/profile.php?id=773792949394717) in knowing that the media will almost always portray black people and brown people and mad people as the aggressors, even if this is far from the truth. This has not stopped BLM and it should not stop us from mourning our fallen and demanding justice.

    The intersection between Black Lives Matter and Mad Pride began for me almost two years ago on August 20, 2015. Just ten days after Micheal Brown was gunned down in Ferguson and the city erupted into protest, Kajieme Powell, a young black man, was viciously assassinated on video for the whole world to see. You can go to the website justice4kajieme.org where I have laid out all the facts. Unlike Michael Brown, Kajieme Powell’s death was attributed to “suicide by cop” but that explanation just doesn’t hold up. This was a brutal execution of a person in deep distress that was needless and amounted to an extrajudicial execution. And yet far too many of us were afraid then–and remain afraid today–to identify with Kajieme Powell as one of us who has fallen.

    No one will be held accountable for Kajieme Powell’s death. No one will be held accountable for the 385 other individuals identified by the Washington Post as having “signs of mental illness” who have died in 2015 and so far in 2016, but we cannot give up the fight. In this respect we need Black Lives Matter more than ever. Not only should we join in the street; we need to join in the workshops and consciousness raising events. This is not just to show support, it is also to learn how we can be more effective in our activism and how we can speak from the points of intersections–like Kajieme Powell’s assassination–that bring us together.

    If you haven’t already signed the petition at justice4kajieme.org, please do!

    Thank you Will for reminding us all that we cannot do this alone. We need to walk arm in arm with a movement that is larger than any of us, a movement for racial justice and the end of militarized policing. If we don’t come out onto the streets for Black Lives Matter, we are likely to be afraid to come onto the streets for the 385–black and white–who we have lost to militarized policing in the last 18 months.

    For more information about Monday’s Boston Globe protest go to:
    https://www.facebook.com/mpower.org/?fref=ts or m-power.org

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    • I fully support creating “People of Color Only Safe Spaces and Healing Spaces” as BLM often does, but this is different than saying BLM is an exclusionary movement. Many including MJ Jones have written powerfully about the need for Black Only spaces. See http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/09/why-need-black-only-spaces/

      It is important that I as a white person recognize that my white privilege doesn’t entitle me to walk into any space and claim it as my own. At the same time, white people can support the Black Lives Matter movement and participate in demonstrations where we are welcome. Perwana Nazif recently wrote about 10 ways that non people of color can support BLM:

      One of these ways is showing up at events in the streets that are not Black Only. Here is a quote:

      5. Offline participation
      While sharing on social media can spark change, you also have to physically attend and participate. Join demonstrations, protests, marches, and events for BLM, like Los Angeles’ Underground Museum’s recent event, Holding Court: Black Lives Matter, an event for critical thinking and community building with BLM co-founder Patrisse Cullors and Black Lives Matter Network Art + Culture Director Tanya Lucia Bernard. Numbers propagate change!

      Circa, if you took my comment to be speaking for the Black Lives Matter movement, that was not my intention. Instead I was speaking as a person who is part of what I like to call the Mad Pride movement who has participated in BLM events. I was speaking about what I have learned through this participation and how it applies to the Mad Pride movement.

      The two movements are not the same but they do intersect. I have a right and obligation to focus on the execution of Kajieme Powell because Black Pride and Mad Pride intersect in his defiance of police authority. I would fully support creating a “Black only and Mad only” safe space, even though I cannot enter this space, because I understand the need for safe spaces where people feel that they can be truly themselves without having to explain to others what this is like or why their experience is uniquely their own. Unfortunately such spaces are far too infrequent. This is one reason why I believe our Mad Pride movement needs to grow both in size and diversity.

      Yes, black people have turned out in thousands and thousands to mourn the death of Michael Brown and in far fewer numbers to mourn for Kajieme Powell, but it would be a mistake to say that Kajieme was altogether forgotten by the BLM. In fact, BLM has done a better job of remembering Kajieme than the Mad Pride movement has. That needs to change! We the Mad Pride movement need to be turning up in thousands and thousands to honor Kajieme and the 385 other people shot by police in 2015 and so far in 2016 who have been labelled with “mental illness”. We do not have the luxury of criticising BLM for neglecting Kajieme and other Mad people, because we have not done our own organizing.

      I am not suggesting we appropriate the issue of militarized policing as our own, taking it away from BLM. I am saying that we too are affected by this violence and that we need to honor those who have fallen and demand justice. In this we have much to learn from BLM and we do well to participate in those spaces where we are welcome.

      Let’s never pretend that we don’t show up to support BLM because all BLM spaces are Black Only. This simply is not true. While being sensitive that white privilege can blind us to the disruption we may cause by entering a Black Only space, we also have an obligation to use our white privilege to support the BLM movement and to take the ten steps recommended by Perwana Nazif.

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          • You’re joking of course. Mad Lives Matter might save lives. Mad Lives Antimatter would be more likely to shrug off lives. That’s my opinion anyway. I’d rather see people take control of their health and their lives. There may be a place for bad puns, but one of those places is not in the name for a movement to save lives. Black Lives Don’t Matter doesn’t work any better. Not when the police shoot people dead, that is, when they don’t beat them to death.

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          • @Frank

            I was thinking of particle physics. Sane Lives Matter. Mad Lives Antimatter. Energies in oppositional relationships. It didn’t work as I’m having to explain it.

            I agree that police brutality has to be tackled. But I do not agree that it should only be tackled in relation to one minority. At this point people usually say to me that more black people come a cropper with police brutality. But then more black people are proportionately involved in crime. So perhaps it’s not such a surprise.

            And then there was the Black Lives Matter march through the streets of NYC chanting, “What do we want? Dead cops! When do we want it? Now!”

            Which would have led to a mass arrest in Britian.

            I think the problem of the USA is that it considers hate speech to be free speech.

            If hate speech was criminalised the civil discourse would improve. Although that would mean a lot of your radio broadcasters suddenly finding themselves out of work.

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          • That’s mad, rasselas.redux, I just don’t think it will save any lives. Theoretical physics, particle physics, and everyday reality are kind of at odds. People need to know what you’re talking about, and that’s not an abstract matter of substantiating some mathematical formula.

            Mad lives matter, anti-mattering just sows confusion, and in that sense, aids and abets dirty cops.

            When the police murder people, they need to prosecuted. If one minority cares enough about the matter to act, then it starts other minorities to thinking, “Maybe it’s time for us to do something, too?”

            One minority is doing something. That’s not a bad thing.

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      • So now we have the “mental health movement” and the “mad pride movement,” both as nebulous as can be in terms of definition and political perspective, being cited as “allies” of BLM. Neither with an anti-capitalist/anti-imperialist perspective or significant connections with the proletariat. This has the scent of opportunism. Is it BLM that needs you people’s alleged “support,” or that you want to ride their coattails to bolster your own legitimacy and self-image as “anti-racist”?

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        • It may not be anti-capitalist, but I don’t get the idea that BLM is anti-communist, OldHead. Black people have led the way when it comes to the struggle of oppressed people for freedom. There are more of them, when it comes down to it, than there are some of these other minority issue groups, and they’ve been successful at gaining a little clout.

          The mental health movement and the mad pride movement are two different things. The mental health movement is that movement started by Clifford Beers that once referred to itself as the mental hygiene movement. The mad pride movement is that movement that arose in the 1990s partly as a response to the success of the gay movement with it’s gay pride celebrations. There are places where these concentric circles may intersect, if one chooses, but there are places, too, where they don’t intersect at all.

          I’m thinking that if BLM can do something about the killing of black people, mainly youths, by law enforcement, maybe we can get somewhere with the killing of people with psychiatric labels, also by law enforcement. It would seem to me, anyway, that the two aims are related, and not only that, that they are good ones.

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          • I must have been unclear.

            It may not be anti-capitalist, but I don’t get the idea that BLM is anti-communist,</I

            I was not saying BLM had no political analysis, I was speaking of the two alleged "movements" we are discussing. Neither of which has a clear political stance, except possibly — in the case of the so-called "mental health movement" — a reactionary one.

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        • @ Frank

          I dunno. I think something I have learnt from physicists is that there is always a lot more going on than the surface reality.

          And if you don’t examine the Black Lives manifesto than all you are doing essentially is skimming the surface reality.

          Of course if you examine the manifesto — ie. the actual Politick — and you agree with it, then fair enough.

          But maybe I’m a bit of an old-time sentimentalist in believing that the dreams of Martin Luther King may become a reality.

          Attributing worthiness to a political movement does not simply arise — in my worldview at least — simply by that movement doing something. There has to be meat on the bone and then you’ve got get a good chew on that meat. I mean, it mustn’t all be surface realities.

          I keep being called a racist because I am not convinced by a separatist black movement. I’m not a racist and I didn’t suddenly become one because of my reservations.

          All I can deduce is that hardly anyone has actually taken the time to look under the surface of the movement, and is thus just dealing in rather vacuous surface realities.

          I’m not sure how chanting “what we we want? dead cops! when do we want it? now!” is going to save lives. Or indeed disrupting major transport links.

          If all we are dealing with is surface realities… and on that surface simply emotions and feelings… then I’m not convinced either that progress is going to be made.

          I’d be more encouraged if one person was able to demonstrate that they had read and throught through the black lives manifesto.

          My politics is inclusivist. I believe the only way forward is for people to come together, not break off into factions.

          The positive is that these issues are back on the agenda and being discussed.

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          • I will get out my microscope when I have one.

            I’m just saying that Mad Lives Matter. I’m not saying that Mad Lives Don’t Matter. I’m afraid that Mad Lives Anti-Matter gets you a lot closer to Mad Lives Don’t Matter than it does to Mad Lives Matter. I’m not saying that. I’m saying Mad Lives Matter.

            The only Black Lives Matter manifesto that I know about is the one I just accessed from the internet, and it’s interesting in that that we’ve got a Citizen Committee here in Gainesville that came up with a very similar list of demands or suggestions to take to the City Commission regarding our police force at home. I’d say it’s a pretty universal problem here in the USA, and it’s good that some people, such as those with Black Lives Matter, and those on the Citizens Committee here in Gainesville Florida are on it.


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          • The truth of the matter is that the police treat black people differently than they do white people. Black communities are targeted by the police while white communities are treated very differently as a rule. Even when the person is demented, mad, or confused, it’s more likely to be a black person who is shot dead by the police than a white one. This is a reality we are living with, and a reality we want to change. Yes, there is racial profiling done by the police, and there is psychiatric profiling as well. When the two come together, well, you’re chances of being shot or beaten to death just went up dramatically. This makes the treatment of black people a more crucial issue than that of other groups. The ghost of slavery is still with us, and it is something that white people, if they haven’t, are going to have to deal with in themselves. Eventually, it comes around to treating all groups of people better, but you have to start where the need is greatest. That’s just how it goes.

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  8. “Remember our history: the psychiatric survivor movement, which then became the consumer movement and recovery movement and now the peer movement”….

    This is kind of like talking about the movement to legalize marijuana, or, at least, the experience of smoking it, isn’t it? I mean one movement rolls into another, and out of those 1 2 3 4 (& counting) movements I’m not sure what you’re going to come up with next.

    I kind of think this “our” is getting too large to manage sometimes, and I only identify, truly, with the first movement mentioned. It did grow out of the civil rights struggle and the black power/liberation movements, and the struggles for women, gays, and the disabled that followed.

    Yes, Black Lives Matter, and when it comes around it, so do the lives of people labeled “mentally ill”. Both are under threat by the police. Racial profiling has it’s parallel in psychiatric profiling. There is a concern about police killing people of color. Hopefully, someday, we will get to the point where there is a concern about police killing people regardless of color. The great thing is that there is a movement to save black lives. Do something about that, and we’re getting closer to doing something about saving lives in general.

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  9. “Every single mental health reform in the US today owes its existence in part to the struggle of Black people in this country.”

    Very true.

    But, an important lesson from the Black Struggle is being overlooked. People must not be asking for pity, or be complicit by being Uncle Tom’s.

    Psychotherapy and the concept of Recovery are pity seeking and Uncle Tommery.

    There must be specific demands for redress, remedy, compensation, and criminal prosecutions, as well as an open ended willingness to make sure that more children and adults are not harmed by Psychiatry, Psychotherapy, or Recovery.


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  10. Good that you wrote this, Will. The presumed mental health advocacy movement appears to exist in a comfortable bubble of powerlessness, ignoring its debt to black Americans’ struggle for freedom and unaware of the need to make and maintain connections to those Americans — women, black, LGBTQ — who are continuing that struggle today. Without that connectedness, MH advocates and their organizations will remain powerless and marginalized.

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  11. Remember our history: the psychiatric survivor movement, which then became the consumer movement and recovery movement and now the peer movement, was born in a time of civil rights and Black organizing in the US. It was Black people in the civil rights movement who inspired all of us to make social change real, and psychiatric patients and progressive professionals took up that inspiration.

    No, this is a false history you’ve been given. I know because I was there. There once was a true psychiatric inmates liberation movement which was legitimate and was indeed an extension of the civil rights/Black liberation movement. Some individuals tried to hijack the movement with the lure of big bucks and official status, and to coopt the movement by calling it the “consumer” movement. It was a treacherous, opportunistic move and we have yet to recover. The anti-psychiatry movement is slowly being reborn, and the bankruptcy of this opportunism is gradually being exposed.

    The anti-psychiatry movement should indeed support Black Lives Matter, but “support” does not consist of trying to sell them on “mental health reform”; the appropriate role for us is to educate people to the history of psychiatry, which has since the time of slavery been used to keep Black people down, and to warn them about the “treatments” that are being pushed on them en masse today to accomplish the same, which if Murphy passes will be an even greater problem. Which is what I’m trying to do, but couldn’t ignore this.

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    • I can’t get over, OldHead, how you under emphasize the extent of the problem. You’re right, it is false history, but that’s only the “tip of the iceberg” we’re facing. Now you’ve got little “pe-ah” government agency officials running around like they’ve got the goods on their people. “Disability”, and artificial disability at that, has become a career choice, and careers don’t, consciously anyway, self-destruct.

      Yes, it was different years ago. People were divided along conservative, moderate, and radical lines; same as today. How this history is described depends on the person doing the describing. You didn’t have the great government interest that you have today before a certain point. Government interest in defusing, diluting, and hijacking a movement. This government interest has done just that. They don’t want a psychiatric inmate liberation, as you put it, movement, they want a compliant mental patients’ movement, and that’s mostly what they’ve got.

      Sure, we need to support Black Lives Matter, and that is certainly not a matter of “selling mental health reform”. However, this mental patients’ movement itself is pretty much lost in a thick fog of sorts. It’s connection with the mental health movement is a big part of the problem. The mental health movement has always been about getting the government to pay for treatment. Now they got what they want, and we’ve got to turn this boat around. I’d call that as imposing a task as I’ve ever seen.

      You do a Google news search for anti-psychiatry and 3/4 the articles brought up are going to be anti-anti-psychiatry. This is the reality today we are dealing with that wasn’t the reality 40 years ago when loony treatment bashing was pretty run of the mill. Psychiatry, after eugenics, after lobotomy, after you name it, has had major facial surgery. I know it’s garbage, but such garbage doesn’t keep the National Inquirer from selling either. I’m optimistic all told regarding any individuals ability to sever themselves from the nonsense. I’m also pretty cynical about the system giving any time soon. When people have made major investments in nonsense, you might as well call nonsense sense. It’s pretty secure for the time being.

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      • For example, look at comment below this one. #MadLivesMatter.

        Mad Lives Matter

        The mental health treatment business is expanding, and now its got “pe-ah” support specialists with little bits of job fetching paper, and contracting the problem from there, this “mental illness” epidemic, that comes of service industry expansion, is a major complication in itself.

        Sure, there are social issues and there are social issues, and we’ve got the mental health system to pretend them otherwise, and yet, they are still social. Given major investments in “illness”, don’t expect a real investment in health. It’s like prevention when prevention is a matter of catching the “disease” that you invented early. That’s NOT prevention. That’s cause. The “disease” is an invention.

        Anyway, it’s the kind of thing to be expected.

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      • But what are you proposing that people who are decidedly anti-psychiatry do?

        (Separate point) If we actually had a movement allying with BLM would be a no-brainer. But as we see, people are talking about a “mental health movement” and using the term “we.” So before people (not talking about you) come to a greater understanding of what psychiatry and anti-psychiatry are all about, talking about what “we” should support is premature. Lets define “we” first. Meanwhile people going to BLM saying “we are your friends and allies” then pushing “mental health reform” are being destructive of Black AND “mad” lives and misrepresenting what the anti-psych movement should be about.

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        • There have always been differences, OldHead, between people. Bruce Levine has talked about a community of like minded people. That’s what I mean. We, those who do identify as anti-psychiatry, make up a community of like minded people. I don’t think anything is premature here, just unorganized. It is through working together as a group that anything gets done. You’re very right. If BLM has people pushing the reform platform, we need to see that they also, if possible, have people pushing the abolition platform. We’ve had for sometime our own emancipation movement of sorts. Maybe we can spread the message over a little more space. Anyway, one view point is certainly not all viewpoints. Realism is strategy, tactics, and vision. Yes, those coupled with a little patience and work (i.e. purposeful action).

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          • I mentioned before a named Rise Up Georgia which is a BLM-type group (incidentally BLM has been used historically to refer as well to the Black Liberation Movement). Anyway these people are a very righteous (among other things) anti-police violence org which is conducting a campaign called “mental illness is not a crime” as the result of the police murder of a (former) “survivor” named Anthony Hill last April. However they are doing it in an awful way.

            As a way of supporting the “mentally ill” they put this shocking statement on their website:

            What Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is not known for is his bouts with manic depression. While entrenched in battle against the world’s intolerance and apathy, he suffered from mental illness. Throughout his life, Dr. King showed signs of depression: he attempted self harm in his adolescence and was even hospitalized for exhaustion. Many historians attributed his illness to his highly empathetic nature.


            Basically they attempt to cheer up the psychiatrically labeled by saying, it’s ok, Dr. King was also “mentally ill” and his dream was the result of that. Or vice versa.

            Some here would say that people at MIA should “learn” from this and that we have no right to challenge it because of our “privilege.” My contention is that it is our responsibility to educate groups such as BLM and RiseUp Georgia to the nature of psychiatric treachery and warn them about the harm which could come from their asking for more funds for “mental health services” of any sort.

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          • If it been decided to be premature, not having an Insane Liberation Front, together with all the groups that succeeded it, would have nipped the psychiatric survivor movement in the bud.

            There’s always an answer for Dr. Kings alleged “mental illness”, and that is his call for the formation of an International Association for the Advancement of Creative Maladjustment. (Done, basically.) There is something wrong with anybody who’s not maladjusted to war, racism, brutality, and injustice of all sorts.

            Apparently Rise Up Georgia needs to be educated about the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. Fortunately, they’ve got us to provide them with that education. This isn’t a matter of the poor “sick” people feeling better about themselves. It’s blood brother to Mad Pride.

            One thing Dr. King wasn’t was “disabled”. You don’t accomplish as much as he was able to accomplish by being unable to do so.


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      • They don’t want a psychiatric inmate liberation, as you put it, movement, they want a compliant mental patients’ movement, and that’s mostly what they’ve got.

        Your wording is correct: THEY’VE got it. WE haven’t got it. As long as no one believes that THEY are WE.

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        • “They” are the government. I was writing about the influence of, & this is, of course, big big big, government money.

          The government is holding the purse strings many of these “consumer” “pe-ah” groups or whatever are leaping for.

          “We”, as far as I’m concerned, are the people who don’t want a “mental patients'” bondage (to government money for one thing) movement, but would prefer to see a mental patients’ liberation movement instead.

          Another definition for a mental health services consumer is a chronic mental patient. Mental health, not that the word means anything, in so far as it goes, only exists outside of the mental health system. Inside, it’s usually a matter of maintaining “mental illness”.

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  12. Thanks for posting, Will!! Exactly. #blacklivesmatter

    Black Lives Matter

    In Philadelphia, as a Certified Peer Specialist Trainer and Coordinator for Philadelphia, and then a Recovery Initiative Specialist at the City Department of Behavioral Health, I witnessed a very amazing beautiful thing.

    And that, was people, majority who were African-American, under the leadership of an African-American Commissioner, Dr. Arthur Evans, using the deep vast wisdom of it’s community to heal itself- as Dr. Evans explains it.

    In Philadelphia community mental health there is a conscious, thoughtful, concerted attempt to bring ALL stakeholders to the table in the discussions of how to support people who need help with substance addiction, emotional support, resources, community connections, and day to day help in our behavioral health system. This includes people who use services (or peers or People in Recovery), providers – administrators, Peer Specialists, doctors, therapists, families, larger community.

    Philly is moving towards becoming a trauma-sensitive and trauma-informed city. Meetings and trainings have been, and are being held, for first responders- such as police and emergency response.

    I know this is all happening. Because I was there. And very active in the systems transformation. I’m sharing a video from 2008 about the Department’s work: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IwIWvJnpoEE

    Many of the people I met who were giving back so passionately as Peer Specialists in Philly, guiding others through the mental health system and substance recovery, were African American men and women. I used to facilitate a Storytelling Training- a training for people in the community mental health system to share their stores of hope, but also share about the harsh difficulties of their histories, and then continue to share the stories with the larger community.

    Black Lives Matter so much. As I listened to stories which were very hard to stomach for me- I was only in my mid 20 and late 20s at the time, and although I had suffered trauma in my life, when I listened to some of the horrors that people had to face, so much community violence, violence in people’s lives, substance use, poverty, discrimination, police brutality, incarceration, mismanagement and cruelty by the mental health and substance use system, etc- it was very hard to bear, and I know I did suffer some vicarious trauma listening, and probably compartmentalized some of the information from having a true emotional response.

    It is clear to me- that systems of oppression, discrimination, prejudice, internal stigma, post traumatic slave syndrome- a concept extensively studied by Dr. Joy DeGruy, have hurt and negatively impacted the black community.


    But because of the extreme hardship all African-Americans face, in my opinion, to some extent, living in this country that has a history of slavery, a history and present moment reality of withholding civil rights from black people, a history and present moment reality of racially based hate crime, a history of Jim Crow and the present moment reality of new Jim Crow, as Michelle Alexander describes it, a history and present moment reality of police brutality, a history and present moment reality of unfairness in the judicial system towards African-Americans, a history and present moment of unequal pay and glass ceilings and deliberate inaccess to power- the community as a whole (and yes there are of course are differences in the African-American community as it is not a completely united community and people chose to express their heritage and values in many different ways and connect with it in many different ways), has a sense of history and power through survival, through hardship, that is a very very potent power. In ways, I have observed, it gives an equinimity (amongst the anger, at being abused and mistreated this way in the United States) and a development of a brotherhood or sisterhood or community consciousness and the drive and capability to fight for equal rights. But black people need conscious allies to support their struggle, racism is so deep, in my opinion, it is very hard to change some things without white allies. I have witnessed and learned this as a Bangladeshi-American who is an activist in diversity and inclusion work.

    It is very important for us as a community that is proposing alternatives to mainstream psychiatry to join Black Lives Matter. Every race is impacted by poverty, discrimination, violence, mental health diagnosis, substance use, etc. But it’s important to acknowledge that some races in the current day US, have more privilege than others- and there is a sad long history of why, and that racism exists today on many many many levels- from the microaggression to institutional racism, to disparity in services, to police violence, to disproportionate amounts people in prison because of racist policies and a lack of resources and support, etc, etc, etc.

    Thank you.

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  13. Birds of a feather flock together.

    Im daunted by the comments on privilege though. The men on both sides of my family served in the military. The aging people who expose white privilege are the same white people who dodged draft in 60’s, moved into poor neighborhoods with goal to placate racial understanding, but drove rents up and took over neighborhood businesses.

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  14. I know people in many places and can assure you Philadelphia is no “safe zone” for anyone regarding “mental health.” There is as much drugging and labeling in CMH and “behavioral health” centers there as anywhere else. We don’t need “alternatives to mainstream psychiatry,” we need to END the process of channeling Black people into the “mental health” system, period.

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    • Old head. I agree. Lots of people get drugged in Philly. I know. I was there. I lived in philly for 7 years. And I worked in philly for 10 years in mental health advocacy. I also am a psychiatric survivor. I have seen you a few times on this forum- and my question to you is, are you always trying to engage in constructive debate, or are you just trying to make people feel bad sometimes? Because I feel hurt by your response.

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      • I’m not sure why emotion should come into it, but I’m sorry you feel that way and it certainly wasn’t the intent of my comment, which was in response to what still sounds like a sugar-coating of what goes on in every major urban area. If there was something inconsequential I could retract to make you feel better I would, but I pretty much have to stand by all three sentences I wrote. (I will remember your “survivor” status in the future however.)

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        • Thank you for your apology. I did not intend to sugarcoat with this statement, as I witnessed this in Philly with my own eyes, and was an integral part of the systems change. Of course there are still lots of issues. And it was a painful process helping coordinate an initiative that brought in all the voices, because I got to hear the stories of how deeply mental health and substance abuse stigmatization runs- within a system- it certainly shakes things up when therapists realize that people who have lived experience of the mental health system and substance use system have a knowledge and ability to help and connect that a therapist will never have, unless if the therapist is a survivor who openly discloses.

          This is not a sugarcoat for me. For me, i was deeply transformed, as a psychiatric survivor, to have top officials listen to me and recognize my voice. I feel proudly a part of the systems transformation in Philadelphia. Tell me Oldhead, who will help everyone come off their drugs at this point in time? And who will take care of the people who suffer through so much violence and oppression in their lives and don’t have the necessary support, that maybe a careful short term psychiatric drug prescription might be helpful. Having come of lithium, Abilify, klonopin, other ssris, benzodiazepines, other anti-psychotics, after 15 years, and being involuntarily hospitalized a few times, and forced drugged myself , I know it is incredibly hard to come psychiatric drugs because of the mythology that mainstream psychiatry has built, because of medical issues, and because there is not enough clinical support.

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  15. I just got this in my news feed from Black Lives Matter in which they mention that, “Black people are ……….. 44 times more likely to be detained under the Mental Health Act,” this is in the UK.

    How can this movement not be intimately connected to Black Lives Matter?

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      • I think it worth saying twice.

        I think that if the inmates liberation movement stems from the civil rights movement then it is worth asking how white is this movement?

        Or indeed, how representative is the anti-psychiatry movement of those who are most at risk of psychiatric abuse?

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        • By “this” movement, please be more clear — at least three “movements” are being posited here. None of which has a central mailing address or website (perhaps fortunately right now).

          The general answer to your question, of course, is mostly white, both in composition and approach. Also keep in mind that racist institutions often use “minority” individuals by putting a dark face or two, or sometimes many, “out front” to give the impression of “diversity.” Just like the psychiatric establishment started to use “token mental patients” to promote their scheme to destroy the mental patients liberation movement in the early 80’s.

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          • I’m kind of a movement of one really, the Dont lie and say i’m your patient, drug me with benzos without my knowledge, plant a knife in my pocket, and have police cart me off to a mental institution to be drugged for a metaphor with brain damaging chemicals because I disagree with you movement.

            Gotta do something to shorten that a bit I think before it catches on lol

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        • Blacks indeed are more at risk of psychiatric abuse than whites, Johns And that is vital to address; and I am all it favour of it being put front and center in the movement. By the same token, and this keeps being forgotten, women are particularly at risk, and the significance of that reality has long been marginalized in the movement

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          • Older women are particularly at risk for more shock treatments. I had some squirrely woman psychiatrist tell me to my face that she knew so many “little old women” who just loved their ect! I told her that for every person she could produce that “loved” their ect I could come up with at least two if not three people who feel that they were terribly harmed by shock treatments. She actually agreed that I was correct!

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  16. Alright, I’m out. Been waiting for years for things to improve. I will say that around five years ago and before. you couldn’t find anything about coercive psychiatry in the US. Results of psychiatric abuse in search results only ever led back to other countries never here. I put myself at risk many times back in those days to try and get through to people while being maligned and told to take my meds.

    Things have greatly improved and I see a huge spike in awareness that wasn’t there before. I can also see from this article there is still a long way to go.

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  17. I am so inspired by the “Black Lives Matter” movement. During all of the twentieth century, even the most idealistic people were convinced that movements for social change could never be centered around “vague desires” like “mattering”. But BLM has proven that wrong! And Mr. Hall is right – it IS making a lot of Mad people defy the “impossibility” of unloading our injustices and encumbrances (forced-treatment, drugs, the pathologization of our extreme states, the credibility of our pathogenic families, anti-Mad fear mongering — “The Desperate and the Dead”, anyone?). Just look at what we’re achieving with our efforts to defeat the “Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act”. I’ll bet Rep. Tim Murphy never thought he’d STILL be failing at that awful bill after three long years. Thank you, Mr. Hall, for reminding us how powerful we can be when we view ourselves and treat each other as citizens of the world.

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    • Just look at what we’re achieving with our efforts to defeat the “Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act”. I’ll bet Rep. Tim Murphy never thought he’d STILL be failing at that awful bill after three long years.

      No interest in conflict, J, but what are “we” accomplishing re: Murphy? We just lost in the House 422-2 and they’re rushing to railroad the Senate version through before anyone notices. Murphy is almost the law of the land. (Unless you’re being sarcastic.) If you didn’t know this and want to do something it may not be too late though. Some of us are working on targeted talking points right now.

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        • I would agree that if would be a very good thing if each of you who are Americans on this website called your Senators about Murphy. In this regard, we need to more actively intervene. The point here is that though analysis is critical, and indeed indispensable, analysis without action, as radical adult educator Paulo Freire puts it, is but verbalism. By the same token, to bring this back to the topic at hand, we should through our actions (both personal and more overtly political) be supporting BLM and indeed all other liberation and social justice movements. That is one of the principal ways that we an create a better society –and issue which includes but transcends identity politics.

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          • Thanks Bonnie. I would add that action without analysis can be self-destructive. We’re trying to coordinate the two in the Organizing Forum by working on some talking points on Murphy which are palatable to those of us who don’t consider ourselves “consumers” of anything but bs, and which address the political realities of Murphy with clear-cut rebuttals to their main propaganda points. People who want to seriously contribute to writing and researching these are welcome to join us at http://www.madinamerica.com/forums/topic/we-need-our-own-murphy-talking-points/

            Something inherently racist in this discussion, if people are really trying to explore internalized racism, is the notion that white people have the judgmental authority to endorse or not endorse Black lives and Black struggles. I mean, where do they/we get off?

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        • This is a good idea oldhead. Some of the environmental groups I support will call (either in person or through a recording) supporters and than patch them directly through to their senators or congressmen to leave a message regarding an important bill. The whole process takes less than five minutes and results in much more support for the movement than would have occurred without the system. Mental Health advocacy could benefit from this type of system through MIA.

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  18. I think before anyone endorses anything they should take care to examine what they are endorsing.

    There is a comprehensive manifesto online that should be read.

    As for Mad Lives Matter. Yes, indeed. Then we can have LGBT Lives Matter. Hispanic Lives Matter. Learning Disabled Lives Matter. Revolutionary Communist Lives Matter. NeoFascist Lives Matter. Romany Gypsy LIves Matter. Cops Lives Matter. And so on and so forth. Until finally we start seeing sense again and run on with the assumption that All Lives Matter.

    If you read the Black LIves manifesto you’ll appreciate that it is exclusivist. And it has a slightly unnerving subtext that wishes to replace so-called White Privilege (whatever that is) with Black Privilege.

    The movement betrays many of the aspirations of Martin Luther King, who I believe would have agreed with me that All Lives Matter.

    But… there is the bandwagon… whatcha gonna do?

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    • Humanbeing pointed out in another article that what Black Lives Matter really means is that black lives matter, too. So when someone replies with “all lives matter,” it’s basically telling them to STFU. I’m not saying that is necessarily your intention, but that is what you are doing.

      BLM is not meant to imply that other lives don’t matter. It is a necessary assertion of the value of black lives, because that value is not reflected in a society in which one third of black males are incarcerated, and in which black people face rampant employment and housing discrimination, and in which black children are denied a proper education, and in which black people are regularly executed by police for the “crime” of being black.

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      • White people seem to be very keen to shame and name-call other white people like myself who do not endorse the underlying ethos of this emerging Black Lives movement (which is essentially exclusivist and separatist), seemingly in an attempt to raise their profile as right-on and with-it, when to mine eyes and those who have also taken a non-reactionary and sensible look, they appear right-off and without-it.

        Yes, I agree that there are lots of problems with minority groups and how society shares its pies. But those problems are not simply and only experienced by black people. They are experienced by all minority and marginalised groups.

        You appear to be someone who also hasn’t read and thought through the Black Lives manifesto.

        I’m not telling anyone to shut up. And even if I did, they aren’t going to.

        All I am holding true to is an INCLUSIVIST politics. The Black Live movement is an EXCLUSIVIST politics. And the Black LIves Matter sloganeering is but one example of that.

        The issues you have raised about black people in the USA are not under the EXCLUSIVE ownership of the Black Lives movement. And I would again encourage you to examine their menifesto before you start pointing the finger of shame.

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          • You’d have to read the Black Lives manifesto and then we might be able to have a sensible discussion.

            Only then could it be determined how right or wrong I am actually am about the exclusivist/separatist political vision being proposed.

            Then again, it is always easier to insult someone than it is to make an actual effort to engage with the facts.

            Why don’t you reference the manifesto?

            Why is it just feelings and emotions?

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    • what you are saying here RR is the same as what sexist men said during the heyday of feminism wheobjecting to women saying that women need human rights. Of course everyone needs right. and of course, everyone matters. But in a hegemonic society, it is always assumed that white lives matters–hence the phrase “black lives matters

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      • Thanks Bonnie but that is not what I’ve been stating. That is a misrepresentation.

        I’ll make this clear. I do not object to black rights or to fighting racism.

        But the fight is not a one horse race.

        Hispanic Lives Matter. Asian-American Lives Matter. Muslim-American Lives Matter. And so on and so forth.

        I have not objected to the furtherance of anyone’s rights or the belittlement of any minority group’s lives.

        What I have objected to are Black Lives Matter activists chanting for the deaths of cops. And I object to the exclusivist/separatist politics of the Black Lives movement, whose manifesto I have linked to,

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      • Also, with respect, this is a very naive statement:

        “But in a hegemonic society, it is always assumed that white lives matters–hence the phrase “black lives matters.”

        How is it always assumed that “white lives matter”? Seriously. It’s almost as if you have no awareness of the vast swathes of dispossessed white people across the west. The huge numbers of peoples whose lives have come to mean nothing to those that hold power. Marx categorised these people as the “lumpenproletariat” and this group of marginalised people have been historically mostly comprised of white people, and that continues to this day.

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      • Not to stray too far OT, but for perspective—

        Bonnie, I was once invited to join a local “alternative-to-the-system” organization–based on ‘non-stigmatizing and non-discriminatory practices”–which was in the process of development. I went to the first meeting, and it was 8 women who had either worked in the system, received services, or both–and me (who qualifies as ‘both’).

        As the meeting progressed, I suggested that we each teach a class to the others, based on what we are bringing to the table, in terms of healing or perspective. For example, mine would be my perspective on stigma and discrimination and how this affects our well-being and quality of life, and different paths to addressing and healing this. That’s always my focus in my work, as healer, teacher, and activist.

        Their collective response was, “We’re not taking a class from you, we don’t trust men.” Two women actually expressed this–one of them out and out saying, “Men are tricksters” and the other 6, while they said they’d be ok with it, supported the naysaying women, so that became the dominant voice and perspective, fixed.

        That’s their choice, of course, and I’m sure they have their own personal reasons for making this choice, but how is this not blatant discrimination based on gender? I’m simply trying to work, and that perspective sabotages my opportunity, and it’s all based on stigma, projection, and transference of feelings and issues toward me, before even being given a chance.

        I left and never went back, which to me was the most reasonable, productive, and self-compassionate choice I could make. I also was certain that this would not fly. Still, the irony was over-the-top, as was their lack of self-awareness around this blatant hypocrisy. This was three years ago. They’re still not up and running.

        I’m thinking a lot of what ripples from these tangential groups who claim to be wanting to solve these problems and, to my observation, are simply recreating them. This is the cycle I would like to see broken. In the mental health system, there is no discrimination, Everyone loses, regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation.

        I’m not one to say “what about men’s rights?’ in general, because I’m totally aware of the social and professional inequalities which women have had to address; and I’m not one to say we need a “White History Month,” because I’m aware that “White History” is our dominant perspective, and making room for other cultures and perspectives is something we must do consciously and proactively, to reverse the discrimination we’ve practiced for so long, as a society.

        BUT, in the mental health system, middle aged white men are just as victimized as anyone, and made to feel violated, dehumanized, and discarded. Can’t we at least get on equal footing as far as the mental health system goes? At what point are we going to stop saying or implying, “Hey, I’ve been victimized worse than you!” because that’s what these discussions often read as to me. I believe we’ve all been victims of social brainwashing and personal space violation. I believe in this regard, we are all equal.

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        • When people from oppressed groups reject those who are from the rest of the population, especially from the other side of the particular oppression binary that they are contending with, this is an expected moment in the development of any movement. I have seen it happen in absolutely every social justice movement, including in the mad movement. The thing is not to take it personally, not to employ words like “reverse sexism” or “reverse racism” but to understand for what it is and to see it as a part of a process.

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          • I did deliberately avoid those terms, describing the event specifically as “blatant discrimination based on gender,” which to me, you seem to be justifying as “part of the process” whereas for me, it is unacceptable. That’s no example of change, and only embeds the values of the status quo.

            This is not about taking it personally, and I imagine you are truly aware of this. Is that a response to give when one calls out discrimination and abuse? In the mental health system, it is exactly what people say. Talk about putting it on the whistle-blower, seriously, never mind “blaming the victim.”

            Whereas, in reality, it is a matter of blatant hypocrisy in action, to me it’s quite obvious, and that spells trouble in my book. I don’t think it’s a smart move or perspective whatsoever and will keep things stuck, while coming back to haunt.

            You say it is part of the developmental process, whereas I would predict it to be self-sabotaging in this day and age, at this particular juncture in human history.

            I will stay tuned and see how it unfolds, but I do not see a good outcome from the perspective you give. That’s just my intuitive hunch, based on what I know about energy, and how it works to either create or sabotage.

            To me, with this example, the writing is on the wall. If it turns out I’m wrong, I’ll be the first to own it, and I’d be happy about that, because I would like to see activism succeed and change happening, but I continue to see more of the same, over and over, from the activist camp, like a black hole.

            That is honestly my assessment after all these years/decades involved with this, and producing on my own behalf, for the purpose of creating change. I’m telling you, Bonnie, groups bring people down, there is no respect for individuality–above and beyond any discerning features– and that is a problem, I think, when it comes to healing, either individually or socially.

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          • But Bonnie, what you say is true, and this is why survivors of the psychiatric system must stop courting pity from the newspapers, like the Boston Globe. And they must also stop associating with psychotherapists, and with people who use psych meds or see pscyhotherapists.

            And then we who have survived the middle-class family must stop associating with therapists who market their services to parents, and who disregard mandatory reporting. Middle-class child abuse always revolves around doctors.


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          • Also, they did not reject me from participation, only blocked me from teaching. They wanted me to stay and work with them, regardless. They loved my film and knew I had done my own healing from all of this. But my presence was contingent upon my allowing myself to be discriminated against. I’m the one that walked away. I thought that was absurd and that this group was useless, just a carbon copy of what they were protesting in the first place.

            So first, they stigmatize and marginalize me, attempting to disempower me, and then, they take it personally when I walk away. How obvious can it be that this is nothing other than power struggling based on pure discrimination? All starting with a blatantly stigmatizing projection to “keep me in my place.” Totally unfounded, I was conservative in how I presented.

            I’ve experienced and witnessed this dynamic in all advocacy and activism, and rampantly on MIA. It does become personal for some folks, and that’s too bad, as that only undermines the collective goal and focus.

            The mental health world and its tangents are a lost cause, I’m afraid, the mindset is much too dualistic and ego-driven. It will self-destruct in time, that’s all I can see. And I, for one, will feel relieved when that happens, for the greater good.

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          • To be clear, Alex, when I say it is part of the process, that is not a justification of it at all, for I am not making an ethical statement but but a practical one. I personally do not like that kind of organizing and do not find it constructive. But I know that this is where people often need to be and so have found a way of allowing people their space here. Or to put this another way, I just know that it happen, that it inevitably happens, and you do not take it personally when it happens. You just try to be a force for moving beyond this type of analysis without losing your committment and without getting entangled in useless back-and-forth on it. Had I taken it personally and as a sign of something awful every time I was told that I had no right to an opinion for example because I was not a member of the oppressed group, I would not be doing what I am today in any group, including in antipsychiatry. That, I feel, would have been truly unfortunate.

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          • With a client, yes, I can see the layers and phases of their process and can give it permission to be, that’s my job. Transition is an evolutionary process and each layer has a voice which needs to be expressed.

            As a potential staff member of any health agency, walking into blatant discrimination–yet again, after all I experienced in the system, inluding legal action due to discrimination–I would have felt enabling, non self-respecting, and really kind of stupid. After experiencing this with myriad agencies repeatedly, no more. I made my film in hostile territory, so I do not shy away.

            But this group was bad, and not unlike all that I’ve experienced. The buck of discrimination stops right here. I see peoples’ heart and spirit and this is what I attempt to convey and illustrate in Voices That Heal. That is a level playing field, and we can have it at any time we awaken to what is truly just, universally, at all times. The means IS the end in this case, otherwise we have no examples of justice and equality.

            Discrimination is social abuse and there is no excuse for abuse–EVER! No yeah-buts about it.

            I’m happy with my path, too, and feel good about my work and community service. Discrimination is life-sucking, so I feel as though I freed myself to enjoy life making music and helping people when they ask for my support. As long as each is us is happy with our decisions, then we both did the right thing for ourselves. The truth of the matter is subjective and personal I’m sure, and contingent upon so many factors unique to each of us. Thsts about the size of it, to my mind.

            Thanks for sharing your truth.

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          • While I am perhaps not as quick to label things this way, Alex, and while there are for sure differences between us here, we are not as far apart on this issue as it might first appear. I feel very differently about jobs than I do than other things –and my guess is that if I were in your place, while I would probably have assessed the situation differently, nonetheless I would have fairly soon walked away from this job situation also as long as if I had first made an honest attempt to learn. And I would have eventually walked away from it whether it was a job situation or not. The thing would be for me to know if I really did listen and that defensiveness on my part was not part of the equation. All of which, you indeed, may well have done yourself. Two bottom lines for me in this regard: The first is that I owe to people who are oppressed in way that I am not to be a learner and see if there are things that i need to adjust irrespective of whether or not I feel I am the object of a degree of unfairness. The second is that I owe it to myself not to stay in a situation where willy-nilly, I remain suspect and disrespected.

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          • All that you say sounds reasonable to me, Bonnie, and I know myself to be a reasonable person.

            I’m doing well self- employed, and, in fact, I’m happily semi-retired at this point. I’m pretty much a volunteer in the world at present and seriously loving that freedom. Coming from where I come, I don’t take that at all for granted and am always happy to pass along what I learned in my complex story of healing. I do not hoard information that would benefit the greater good.

            This was not about “employment.” This was all volunteer until they were up and running, which is still not the case, which I had predicted easily they’d get stuck. I’d do it all for free of it were worth it and nourishing to me on its own merits, but I knew this group would be terribly draining. Self-care is always part of the equation with any decision I make.

            My desire is always to contribute to society, even simply as a kind neighbor. Both my films are public service–one being an example is truth-speaking as a way out of oppression and one about sharing music, love, and spirit as a away to community healing. I made no $$ on these but the universe has rewarded me handsomely for my public service work. That’s how it works on a just society.

            I went to 3 meetings and had a hardy dialogue with the woman who invited me aboard and then discussed it with my partner. We both saw red flags all over the place.

            I’m not easy when it comes to these things, I take my time and get my info, examine my feelings. Implying defensiveness when someone is describing discrimination and social abuse is rather tricky territory, Bonnie, and borders on unsafe and victim-blaming. That’s a question of maturity, wouldn’t you say? While I understand how some people may cry wolf as a way to keep their victim status alive, I’m not one of them, quite the opposite. Which is why I won my lawsuit. I was right, and it was proven beyond the shadow of a doubt. That place is closed now because they refused to own their foibles.

            What else can I say?

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          • Sorry about typos btw, been having to use my phone for this and it ain’t so easy! I’m wishing we could have this dialogue in person, would be so much easier and this is rich I think. Some day, maybe, who knows? Been great though, I really appreciate hearing your perspective on all this to challenge mine. I feel a lot of clarity as a result.

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          • Alex: To be clear, it was never my intention to imply that you were being defensive. I absolutely take your word for what happened in this particular situation. And how good that you took care of yourself in it and bravo for standing up for yourself!I was talking rather about general situations and key principles that we need to touch base with.

            Re feminism per se, I do notice that in MadinAmerica, there is very little attention to feminism and when it does turn up, the reaction often strike a defensive (again, I am not commenting on you) A dynamic which tends to worry me. None of which is a comment at all on any particular person or any particular situation.

            Re all being human beings together, yes of course that is exactly what we have to do. At the same time, my own position is that we will never really resolve inequities if we do not also focus in on them.

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          • Fair enough Bonnie, thanks for the clarity re defensiveness, I wasn’t sure otherwise why you had brought it up, but I get you here.

            Re feminism, I’m simply not connected there. I applaude and support any group standing up for equal rights. I identify as a Gay man and did a lot of work for equal marriage rights, that’s my backyard. I’m also Jewish and Latino and have faced social issues there.

            But on MiA, I identify as a psychatric survivor, which, for me, has been the most oppressive identity of all. I think it’s a catch-all. Any form of discrimination, oppression, abuse, bullying, shaming, etc., on here, invalidates “the movement” to my mind, because that’s what a lot of survivors are attempting to heal and recover from, so it’s a big toxic loop for folks.

            Unfortunately, I’ve both witnessed and experienced that here, and have been accused of doing so myself. Many languages spoken on this board. But I hold hope for a clearing. I’ve made no secret of my frustrations here but I am still here, aren’t I? At least virtually, I can remain detached from it all.

            This is what I got from living this for years, the moment I connected in any way with the mh field, starting with grad school, and all through the culture, inside and out, layer by layer and wearing a variety of hats for 20 years now. I only see a sinking ship because these issues are inherently divisive so it is hard to see unity from this perspective.

            The solution is a radical shift in consciousness–not so easy, but vital. I help people with this, I work with select clients who are ready to transition into a new personal narrative and paradigm. That’s the journey out of oppression, per my personal lived experience.

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  19. Mental heath organizations may or may not want to endorse the black lives movement. Since I will have to contact or communications with them, what they do does not concern me.

    But I would suggest that the black lives movement have zero contact with mental health organizations. I would suggest that no one have any contact with any mental health organizations.

    Nothing I am involved in will be having contact with any mental health organizations.

    I am committed to the eradication of the entire mental health system, and starting with the removal of psychiatric medications from the market, the delicensing of psychotherapists, and then full enforcement of mandatory reporting in cases of suspected child abuse, the prohibition on child endangerment, and the prohibition of child abuse. These three enforcements would already be enough to incarcerate most mental health professionals.


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  20. Additionally, women fought for equality. The black lives movement manifesto does not demand equality, it demands autonomy.

    Suffragettes didn’t demand a world economic network for women-only.

    If you read the black lives manifesto it demands black-only economic trade routes and trade agreements.

    It is not a movement that is fighting for equality as its ultimate aim. It is fighting for Black privilege.

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    • There is a difference, I would agree, between revolutionary groups and simple identity groups, both of which I see as having a place in the world, but there is one which I priortize more. Marxism is a revolutionary movement, as is anarchism, as is feminism, as is environmentalism. Other things are less clear for they less consistently have a vision for the world. Both the mad movement and the antipsychiatry movement, I see in the in-between zone but veering toward revolutionary/visionary, and at their best, these are both inclusive and visionary. There is a question of timing here, at the same time and a question of emphasis. I do not see BLM as yet revolutionary but I do see it as a just, as necessary, and asprincipalled movement that I am called upon to endorse and actively support as someone who wants to see justice in this world. What is also significant is their complex intersectional analysis.

      Am I suggesting that the antipsychiatry movement or the mad movement “join” BLM? I am not –any more than I am suggesting we join any other of the very important movements.What I am suggesting is that we listen to their concerns, do what we can to address their concerns, and more generally find ways for us all to be allies of each other in the fight for a better world.

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      • Actually I think we have to recognize anti-psychiatry as something which serves all sectors of the larger movement. We are not separate, at our best we are all serving specialized functions within the overall struggle against capitalism and imperialism.

        As such we cannot “join” the Black liberation movement, nor “they” join us; if we maintain such artificial divisions there’s something wrong with the whole process.

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  21. Does anyone come up with an empty page on Wikipedia for e fuller Torrey’s page?
    Stanley Medical Research PpCenter is cited but is a
    none page
    So who is funding him?
    What are his links to Ariel Castro Hospital?
    Why did he develop so much power?
    Why did he change his tone after the early eighties?
    How many lives has he ruined by his work?
    Is his medical work more akin to Dr Mengle then Dr
    Albert Switzer? sp?
    So happy to know he has a wonderful pathology lab and specimins
    The lab of Dr Mengle had some great twin and twin children path samples as well
    But of course no one wants other folks path samples except for Henrietta
    Lacs so?
    And her story in and of itself is reason enough for aBLM movement

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      • Here is just another twist on Black Lives Matter.

        Generally, many African Americans have been very hesitant to go to hospitals where research is done. Hospitals like university medical centers and the like. The reason for this is that they felt and probably still feel that they are experimented on in these hospitals. I trained in a university medical center and ministered to many African Americans. If we came to trust one another many of these patients expressed their fears about experimentation. Over a year’s time of training I came to know that many of their fears were reasonable.

        As a chaplain there were many nights and early mornings when I was called to the hospital for emergencies. I was a chaplain. Many doctors in training are willing to try some very interesting procedures in the dark of the night, especially on people that the young doctors feel have nothing to lose. And, informed consent doesn’t have much to play in these kinds of things. At the time I was too cowardly to call this into question and bring it into the light of day. My supervisor stated that even if I did it would not be dealt with but would be swept under the rug and I would be silenced. And I must state that I did not witness this happening to White people, although it probably did to those who had no family or friends to advocate for them. But I did witness it happening more than once to Black people.

        The story of Henrietta Lacs is quite interesting. She’s been dead for decades but she lives on through her cells that the doctor attending her for her cancer, either cervical or uterine and I forget which, took without her knowledge when he examined her. Henrietta died not long after. Those cells were cloned or grown and became the cells that are used in all kinds of experiments. They are sold to experimenters and the monetary gains gotten through them are at least in the tens of millions of dollars. Henrietta didn’t know her cells were taken and neither did her family until many years later when a young woman traced things down and wrote a book. Henrietta’s family has received nothing from the sale of her cells.

        So, Black Lives Matter has something more to say than just the fact that police do racially profile and do treat Black people differently from White people. This attitude of treating Black people as less than is more pervasive and extensive than most people want to realize or admit to.

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  22. And this r.r is a necessary way forward to that dream . The same link that Will Hall put at the end of his blog. https://policy.m4bl.org/about/

    In addition for all needing more info. to understand why anti-psychiatry and not just reform . It’s obvious , trying to reform a hoax has been proven to produce evermore outrageous growth in the evermore oppressive and growing psychopharm-archipelego branch of the therapeutic state , both of which have taken on a life of their own and from which no one is safe from receiving unwanted “health care” ( read brain , body, lifespan, & quality of life modification & behavior control through coercive delayed action & time release and other coercive doublespeak strategies from the cradle to the grave .) I guess all this and more make the 400 elite families controlling Amerika feel more safe to continue their tyrannical up-ratchiting reign of terror.

    By the way I just finished reading Bonnie Burstow’s book “PSYCHIATRY AND THE BUSINESS OF MADNESS” An Ethical and Epistemological Accounting . I never read a book I could praise more . Thank you Bonnie !

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  23. Twin Lives Matter too?

    I put any money on you being a white person that is also not entirely sincere when it comes to black rights.

    Why do victims of psychaitric abuse have to be demarcated on racial lines? Surely the less Mengele in the activism the better?

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  24. The catch-phrase for the “mh” system could be: “where no lives matter,” or “where lives don’t matter.” Choose one or both. As far as being a client of the system, I do not believe they discriminate here. Any color, race, gender, sexual orientation–anyone at all on that side of the fence–will be treated equally in this regard. That’s what matters to me in this particular focus, fwiw.

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    • Research suggests that Blacks are oppressed more than whites by psychiatry currently, and for the vast majority of its history, women are oppressed more than men. That said, there is a degree nonetheless, where psychiatry is an “equal opportunity oppress”. That is, it is quite happy to colonize, brain-damage, and otherwise oppress everyone, irrespective of gender, class, and colour.

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      • The dark night of the soul journey teaches that we are all spiritual beings having a human experience. Once we get that, as a collective, racism, sexism, homophobia, et al, will heal. We are infinitely more than our skin color, gender, sexual preference, etc., and on that meta-level, we’re totally equal, each one of us a valuable and uniquely gifted aspect of One conciousness. Can’t point to research on this, but when we understand what it means to embody our ever-evolving truth, we get it, it rings true.

        It’s a spiritual perspective, not academic. Can those two worlds meet with mutual respect and listening eats? That is my question du jour. I wonder…

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  25. Outsiders opinion, for what it’s worth.

    Every time there are one of these instances of a blatant use of excessive force by police, anyone who is of the belief that Black Lives Matter take the day off work and attend the funeral with a piece of duct tape over your mouth (peacefully). If Black Lives Matter then the sacrifice of a days wages shouldn’t be to much to contribute to them mattering. If those to whom Black Lives Don’t Matter are being hit in the wallet, they may reconsider their position when it does.

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